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The Station Nightclub Fire: Have we learned our lessons?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pXYKQYOXX8]

On February 20th 2003 one of the deadliest fires in the history of our country occurs in West Warwick Rhode Island. In the 9 years since have we actually learned our lessons from it?

As the result of several influential fires (Beverly Hills Supper Club, Coconut Grove Night Club, and Rhythm Night Club) the creation of better fire protection codes, and code enforcement were born. Even some of our strategy and tactics have changed as a result of these incidents.

With all of these things though have we really “gotten it” routinely (just look on youtube) we can see engine companies attack large fires with undersized handlines, we still have people who consider aggressive fire tactics to be how close they are to the fire and not the actions they are performing on the fireground, the term transitional attack is met with ridicule and disdain from the “aggressive fireman” even with empirical data that solid and straight streams do not push fire or raise temperature in adjacent rooms.

I was told this a while ago and it rings true today, “you can not use house fire tactics on commercial occupancies”. One captain I used to work for used the term “teddy bear tactics”. The “teddy bear tactic” is something that makes you feel good but does nothing to mitigate the fire, or emergency. An example would be using an 1 3/4 line on a fire that requires a deck gun. Sure that 1 3/4 line is our safe zone it makes us feel really good when we deploy it right, and are fighting fire. However that 1 3/4 line is not really doing anything but making us feel good and putting on a show for the neighbors.

Who has occupancies such as restaurants, night clubs, etc. in there first in? How often do you get inside them? At the company level in my department we perform business inspections, however we do not perform them on special occupancies (schools, large assembly areas) or food/restaurant service occupancies. So unless we catch a run to them, or go out to eat in them we usually never see the inner workings of these occupancies. I will be honest it is something a lot of fireman ignore (myself included) because they so seldom happen. The result of that is we focus our training and walk through on the more likely events.

The problem with that is when this happens with out minimum staffing first in company we are quickly overwhelmed which could result in us resorting to our “teddy bear” or comfort zone and making an improper decision. Just think about the video above and apply it to your department. In mine it is a 3 alarm fire, with MCI that we are going to have to involve outside agencies in order to handle (mostly on the EMS side of things). It is going to involve a unified command, mutual aid, relief crews, extensive rehab, etc. The success of which will hinge on the actions of the first in officer.

The point is to expand your mind, test theories out on the training ground, train, read, and keep an open mind. There is NOT one end all be all tactic in the fire service! Normally it is a combination or several things that lead to success on the fireground. There is no one size fits all tactic all fires, firefighters, and fire departments are different be a student of the game and do not be afraid to think outside the box, and leave that “teddy bear” at home.

I’m not going to lie either I do wonder what would happen here if different tactics were applied. I try to not criticize but to put myself in there place with my staffing, and my thoughts and try to imagine what it would be like. THATS NOT WRONG!!! Study these fires, use youtube to get a better idea of what you would or would’nt want to do.

Do not forget about the giveaway going on http://averagejakeff.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/anniversary-and-giveaway/ enter to win TODAY!!! It is not hard and you get something for free. You can even get the game and trade it in for one you really want!

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

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